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Tuesday, 28 August 1973
Page: 458

Mr BOURCHIER (Bendigo) - I am in favour of the principle of the statement on the new cities program presented by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren). Any move in the field of regional development must be applauded. Before going any further I would like to comment on the remarks made by the honourable member for Holt (Mr Oldmeadow). He referred to increased pressure on the area of the Dandenong Ranges over the next few years. I have an undertaking from the Minister - it was reported in the Press - that he will buy back all the developed area in the Dandenong Ranges and return it to its natural state. So I can assure the honourable member for Holt that there will not be any such problem. I believe that the Minister was at a party when he made that statement; so we probably will not see very much action flowing from it.

Mr Uren - Mr Deputy Speaker, I .ask the honourable member to withdraw that accusation. It is a reflection on me and I ask him to withdraw it.

Mr BOURCHIER - Mr Deputy Speaker,if you consider that the statement should be withdrawn, I withdraw it, because I have no proof that the Minister was at the party.

Mr Uren - Mr Deputy Speaker, it was a snide accusation - and by a new member, too.

Mr BOURCHIER - I withdrew the statement, Mr Deputy Speaker. Do I have to say it again? Whilst I am in favour of the principle of the regional development scheme and of the Albury-Wodonga complex, I am not really in favour of development of this area to .a city with a population of 300,000. I believe that the Albury-Wodonga complex is estimated to cost something in excess of $500m over about 25 years. This is an admirable plan, but in that time very little money will be spent anywhere else under the socalled decentralisation plan to which the Minister referred in his statement.

Through the Budget a further $5m has been allocated for cities development. It is interesting to know that that $5m has in fact been allocated to Melbourne and Geelong. One could hardly call that decentralised regional development. There are other areas in Victoria that were selected a number of years ago for accelerated development. These cities have been geared by the State Government. The machinery has been provided. The planning has been done. They need the assist ance of the Australian Government in providing the funds. I ask the Minister whether he would not consider it better to have a target of perhaps 100,000 for Albury-Wodonga and to plan his spending so that there could be a better spread of the population away from the city areas in the various States.

Dr JohnPaterson, an expert in urban and regional development, is quoted in the Sydney edition of the 'Australian' of 5 February 1973 as saying that Albury will be too big as a 300,000 people complex. He said that he thought 100,000 people would be an adequate size. His reasons were that he was concerned that the Murray River water system might become over-committed. Adelaide, which has no other source of water, is increasing its demands from the system. He said that there were many virtues in having small inland towns which could serve as 'decent' centres and improve the quality of rural life.

The Minister answered that by saying that the critics of the plans for supplying the Albury-Wodonga complex forget that the Dartmouth Dam now being built would supplement the water supply. We now have news for the Minister. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has stated that that will be stopped. It is supposed to be only a temporary stoppage, but like most things that are stopped it will take an awful lot of getting started again. It appears to me to be somewhat of a puzzle, if the Minister admits that the additional water from the Dartmouth Dam will be relied on to provide an adequate water supply not only for the Albury-Wodonga complex but right through to Adelaide, why the Government does not proceed with the Dartmouth Dam - provide the water first and then build the complex around it.

There will be many problems associated with the building of a large area with a population of 300,000. Not the least of these problems will be the requirements of people. It is an established fact that there are problems when industry is enticed away from the metropolitan areas. We had an instance of this in Bendigo. An industry proposed to set up shop in Bendigo. It negotiated with the State Government. A factory site was provided. The Housing Commission was prepared to erect the necessary buildings. Everything that could be done to encourage that industry to go to Bendigo was done. The industry was very keen because it would have housing and everything else it needed. There was one thing that stopped the whole operation, which eventually fell through. That was that the people who worked in that industry in Melbourne did not want to leave the major city. I think the Minister will find that, despite all the planning that is done, there will be many people who will be reluctant to leave their homes and to be shifted out to another area. It will take a long time to build by natural growth a complex with a population of 300,000. The same will apply to the proposed plan to move some of the government departments to Albury-Wodonga. How often have we heard grizzles and complaints, when a government department has been shifted to centralised Canberra, to the effect that the employees do not want to leave Sydney or Melbourne? What will they say when they are asked to leave Canberra to go to a place such as Albury-Wodonga which will be in its infancy in relation to size? I think the Minister will find that that is one of the many difficulties that will not be lightly overcome.

The 'Canberra Times' reported that a survey was taken which suggested that the residents of Albury-Wodonga are against growth and that 60 per cent of the people of Wodonga are against the Federal Government's proposal to turn the Albury-Wodonga complex into a city of 300,000. I realise that that would not worry the Government one iota. It does not matter 2 hoots what anybody says. What the Government wants to do, it will do. It will not consider the rights of the people who live in that area one bit. The Government plans to spend a lot of money buying land for leasing so that it can control the price of land. The Minister wants all the land to be owned by the Government to be leased out so that, as he fondly believes, prices will be controlled.

Let us look at the Canberra prices and hold them up as an example of what can be done in this regard. I was talking to a person who was seeking to buy a home in Canberra, having moved here from Sydney. He checked up on the plan of a house through a company which builds in both Sydney and Canberra. In Canberra it would1 cost $3,000 more for an exact replica of the house he could have bought in Sydney. With building costs higher in places away from the major cities, how will the Government provide lower costs of housing? Many of the major products will have to be carted to those areas and therefore costs will be greatly inflated.

I ask the Minister whether he is aware that the Chamber of Manufactures was very interested in assisting in the planning of the Albury-Wodonga complex. It offered its expertise. Such people obviously would be experienced and would have a great wealth of expertise to offer in the planning for industries in the proposed city. What happened? The Government was not interested in the request. It did not offer to take up the request from the Chamber to be in on the discussions. Of course the trade unions were there. Why not, Mr Minister, develop other areas to limits of 100,000 as has already been planned by the State governments so that we get a better spread and better development? The Minister has made a statement that a feasibility study will be made of the city of Bendigo and other cities in Victoria. No doubt feasibility studies will be carried out in other States as well. This is all very well, but the Prime Minister has warned us that we should not take any notice - or perhaps we should not take too much notice - of such feasibility studies because they may not come to fruition. Does this mean that we would be wasting time and money if we undertook the feasibility studies? I think so, and I do not think that this Government, as the Budget confirmed last week, has any intention of giving any real help in the regional development of our cities. The Government is interested only in the development of major cities. It is planning the Albury-Wodonga complex to form a major city between Sydney and Melbourne and has ignored again the development of the present major rural cities in New South Wales and Victoria.

Whilst I said at the beginning of my speech that I was in favour of the principle of regional development, I am definitely not in favour of the total development of the Albury-Wodonga complex at the cost of other areas. I would like to see the Government rethink this program and plan thoroughly over the coming years and ensure that there is an equitable distribution of money. The Government has started the Albury-Wodonga complex. I believe that this is a very good move provided that the Government keeps it within range, as advised by the expert on the water problem. The Government should also provide money to the States so that they can proceed with their planned development which will help and benefit the spread of population throughout the States in general.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Kerin) adjourned.

Sitting suspended from 6.12 to 8 p.m.

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